Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010 - Referendum Ready

In 24 hours we are departing for holiday in Denmark. Kristoffer will be staying for 2 weeks while Grace and I are staying for 6 weeks (he is coming back towards the end for a few more days and to travel back to Nairobi with us). Grace will get a lot of attention and have a lot of fun with Farmor and Hans for most of the trip, while I will hopefully get a lot of rest. And boy do I need it! In addition to being 13+ weeks pregnant and supposedly on "bed rest" for another 3-4 weeks, I have also had bronchitis for the last few weeks which has turned into a painful lung infection. I went to the emergency room last night, realizing that I needed some medical attention before we travel, and told the doctor that I thought I had cracked a rib. It was that painful and I didn't know what else it could be (also I have been vomiting and coughing so much it actually seemed a likely diagnosis). He said, "But you aren't a doctor, are you?" Good point, guy. Turns out that a lung infection can cause pain similar to that of a cracked rib! He didn't seem that concerned about my pain but was concerned about getting rid of the infection; so I am as drugged up as I am allowed to be given Rocky's residence on the inside and hope to be feeling better before our departure tomorrow morning. There is a big part of me that feels like all of my troubles will disappear once I am in Denmark! Let's get there!

More interesting news is that Kenya is headed for a very big day. On August 4th Kenyans will go to the polls for the first time since the 2007 election to vote on a new Constitution for the nation. The draft of the new Constitution was approved by Parliament a few months ago and the country will vote in just a few more days. This is a big deal for many reasons:
  1. There has not been a national election since the violence that plagued early 2008; Kenyans seem resolute to exercise their right to vote but everyone is treading carefully and hoping (praying, really) that, regardless of the outcome, violence will not ensue and that corruption will not prevent a fair election from taking place.
  2. The new document limits the power of all three branches of government in a way that the country hasn't seen before; for example, for the first time the President shall not also be a Member of Parliament from a certain district of the country. Ideally, these new measures will curtail corruption.
  3. A significantly controversial clause in the document states that abortion is illegal (as it has always been here) except in cases where a medical professional believes the mother's life is at risk. The church, a powerful institution, believes this will open the door for future laws to be created to allow for abortion to be carried out liberally and they have campaigned actively against the new document (with financing from right-wing American conservatives, we believe) throughout the country, specifically in poor areas where people are not educated and rely on their religious leaders for political guidance.
  4. The new constitution also limits the amount of land that can be privately owned, gives power to a land commission to levy taxes on land and even correct historical land injustices, and even gives equal land rights to women (shock! horror!). This is another controversial part of the constitution but one that every outsider agrees is CRUCIAL for the country's future.
  5. Finally, there is a little bit of controvery regarding the part of the constitution that exempts the Muslim population of the country from the Bill of Rights and acknowledges their own courts, called Kadhi. This seems to be less controversial than the other two big issues, but has still been discussed a lot in the media.
  6. The original and current constitution was essentially written in the UK by Brits in the early 60s, so the proposed document would now be much more empowering for Kenyans to live by today.
Politics in Kenya doesn't get more interesting than this. Last night when I was sitting in the emergency room (for 4 hours...) watching the local news, I learned that over 50,000 Kenyans are going to be criminally charged with registering to vote multiple times. Their names were even published in a public "list of shame"; Go Kenya! That is amazing! Otherwise, 12.5 million Kenyans have registered to vote on Wednesday, which has been declared a public holiday to ensure that Kenyans can safely get to and from their polling stations.

It is expected that the new constitution will be adopted, but it is also anticipated that in pockets of the country (likely the Rift Valley and urban slums) there could also be reactive violence or proactive measures of intimidation. Of course we (we = all expats, probably, but definitely me and Kristoffer) hope that Kenya votes for the new Constitution because it would be very good for the country to do so, even if it might not be 100% perfect by every interest-group's standards. But, we hope even more that that Kenyans are able to participate in an open and fair election without fear of persecution for their choice or their ethnic background. We hope the country can prove to the world that they have learned, changed, grown in the last couple of years.

When Wednesday comes around, I anticipate that the Welsiens will be enjoying a certain lovely garden in Varde, Denmark with some certain loved ones, but you can be sure that our thoughts will be with Kenya as we all eagerly await the outcome of the referendum.

LMW

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